Category Archives: SharePoint

PowerApps: Rules for Conditional Formatting

Well done PowerApps team!! Just days before Ignite they rolled out Rules for Conditional Formatting in PowerApps. You could technically get the same functionality with building out formulas, but the new (experimental) rules bypass this and are MUCH more end-user friendly.

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Check out the blog post.

AND take a look at the supporting documentation that’s already released:
Create a rule in PowerApps

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For those of us coming from a SharePoint background this is creeping closer to functionality that was available back in the days of SharePoint Designer. As soon as a true web part is available to embed a PowerApp in a SharePoint page (hopefully the new “modern” pages) users will be able to replace SharePoint views with robust apps that include conditional formatting and other goodies not currently available in SharePoint alone. 

Exciting stuff and more to come!!

Source Parameter Still Alive in Modern Pages

SharePoint’s “modern” capabilities are changing the face of SharePoint – for the better. But it is taking us further away from some of the tricks and approaches that work with “classic” SharePoint. Thankfully one of the long-standing legacy features of SharePoint still seems to work – the Source parameter. 

When used as part of a URL in SharePoint the Source=[URL] parameter takes users to the specified page after a form is saved or cancelled. This allows us to manage some of the navigation flow for users.

So how does this work with “modern” lists and pages. On a list, you have the ‘New’ item button on the top bar.
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When you click it the new item panel opens up. The top links on the panel include a ‘Copy link’ link.
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‘Copy link’ for the New Item gives us the URL of the New Item form that can be used to link from other locations – such as an email footer, the left nav in a SharePoint site, etc. This link includes the Source parameter and by default will go to the default list view page for the list. Usually, that’s not where we’d like to see users end up.

If I’m building an intake solution, I might have a ‘My Requests’ page where I’d like users to end up. To make that happen it’s as easy as copying the link from the New Item page, getting the link to the My Requests page, and then swapping out the Source parameter value.

The default New Item link (with site-specific stuff stripped out):
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/_layouts/15/listform.aspx?PageType=8&ListId=[listGUID]&RootFolder=&Source=[THIS IS WHAT YOU CHANGE]&ContentTypeId=[contentTypeId]

Target destination URL:
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/SitePages/My%20IT%20Requests.aspx

The link you’ll use:
https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/_layouts/15/listform.aspx?PageType=8&ListId=[listGUID]&RootFolder=&Source=https://[mydomain].sharepoint.com/sites/[sitename]/SitePages/My%20IT%20Requests.aspx&ContentTypeId=[contentTypeId]

Using this approach you have a link you can use where users will be able to submit a new request, then end up on the My IT Requests page rather than the default list view page.

References

SharePoint Fest – Chicago

Heading to SPFest Chicago in December? I’ll be presenting a few sessions on PowerApps.

PWR104 – PowerApps for SharePoint Users
PWR202 – From SharePoint to PowerApps: Evolution of the ‘Intake Form’ Solution
(Check out the sessions here)

There’s going to be a LOT of great speakers, sponsors, and content. Fresh out of Ignite there will be a lot to talk about.

Interested in attending? Here’s a discount code (click for registration):
SPFestChi17

Hope to see you there!!

Microsoft Ignite 2017 !!

UPDATE: They’ve managed to fix our session overlap – new location and time shown below!
UPDATE: Added links to the Tech Community Discussions for each session. Chime in! 

In a relatively late development, I’ll be attending and speaking at Ignite in Orlando this year! I wasn’t planning on either, so this is exciting. Working on both SharePoint and PowerApps, I’ve got one theater session and will be co-presenting with Cathy Dew on a full breakout session. Links and details below.

Microsoft Ignite in Orlando. Sept. 25 – 29th.

Evolution of the Intake Request Solution from SharePoint to PowerApps
OCCC South – Expo Theater #4
Wednesday @ 1:05 – 1:25
Tech Community Discussion <- Talk to us! 

w/Cathy Dew:
Create Custom forms and digital experiences in SharePoint using Microsoft PowerApps
OCCC W307
Thursday @12:30 – 1:45
Tech Community Discussion <- Talk to us! 

Yes, if you’re looking at the times the two sessions actually overlap right now (fixed!). We’re working on that. Smile with tongue out Worst case I leave Cathy’s session a little before we’re done and RUN to the other building. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Either way we’ll make it work.

SUPER excited to be able to attend and contribute. Hope to see you there!

JS Link – Add Ellipsis to a Column

Ran across a random request the other day to see the ellipsis menu added to a column other than the Title column. Turns out it’s a pretty simple change similar to how we change the column header text in a SharePoint view.

listItemMenu = “TRUE”

See the full code HERE.

Note: To remove the ellipsis from the Title column in the view, change the column from “Title (linked to item with edit menu)” to “Title” field in the view Columns.

References

Note and Disclaimer: JS Link currently works in SharePoint 2013, 2016, and SharePoint Online. JS Link does NOT work with the ‘Modern Experience’ interface – only Classic Mode. See ‘Choose Your Path Forward’ for more information.

JS Link – No More HTML in Calculated Field Change

Didn’t see that coming.

More than a few times I’ve had folks bring up solutions using calculated fields to do some of the same things we do with Client-side rendering (CSR) and JS Link in SharePoint. That was fine at the time. Just another way to get to the solution using creative out of the box capabilities – until now.

Microsoft implemented a change yesterday (June 13, 2017) that HTML or script elements in calculated fields would be turned off. Apparently this was an ‘undocumented use’ of the feature. The system is now escaping special characters and replacing the column with a blank in the list view.

Now What?

The short answers – in no particular order:

  1. Client-side rendering via JS Link property of web parts. This only works for Classic mode. If you are using Classic mode, this is likely the ‘best’ short term answer to broken interfaces until a longer-term solution is implemented
  2. Third party products
  3. SPFx Extensions or customization
  4. PowerApps

CSR and JS Link: There are multiple ways to implement JS Link, some via the browser (how I use JS Link) and via deployed coded solutions (Dev only). As mentioned in other responses JS Link does NOT work in the modern experience. It will only work in the Classic mode (as long as it is around). There have been NO dates announced for getting rid of Classic mode at this time. If you choose this direction it’s worth noting that if you’re comfortable writing script in the calculated field you’ll likely be comfortable writing the code needed to get CSR to work. I’ve got plenty of examples in the link included here.

Third party products. I’ve seen folks mention something called Skybow but I’ve never seen or used it. Only mentioning because it was mentioned by someone in the community I trust.

SPFx Extensions and customizations: This is the ‘approved’ development path for deployed solutions. If you are a developer and/or are creating solutions that are used across a broader scope this is likely the path you should go down.

PowerApps: This is likely the long-term replacement for solutions you used HTML or other scripting in your calculated field for (hand slap from English teacher). Embedded integration with SharePoint isn’t there yet (well, it kind of is…), but has been announced. You can start building the views/solutions you need, but they won’t be ‘really’ embedded in SharePoint yet – web parts and/or other tools are coming soon (they’ve been announced).

Note: Much of the attention to PowerApps has been in the area of forms, but views will be a part of the capabilities as well. They’ve already made improvements with introduction of controls like the Data Table control. Check out my posts on PowerApps for SharePoint users, specifically things like ‘List View’ Layouts.

Update

Migration Note: Do not forget to take this into consideration now as something to look at when migrating from an environment where special characters (HTML and scripting) work into an environment (O365, etc.) where they do not. You’ll need a plan to replace or update your field customizations.

Summary

Unfortunately this seems like a pretty sudden change. I certainly had no idea it was coming. For folks that were using this approach there’s a lot of scrambling going on right now dealing with blank columns that weren’t blank a few days ago. Depending on how complex the scripting was, some fixes might be as easy as stripping the HTML and script out and displaying a simple value. More complex solutions are going to take some effort to redo, either with a new approach, new code, or 3rd party software to get the business functionality back.

For simple HTML replacement, JS Link could be an easy switch. If you’ve never used it before check out the Hello World post and then the KPI post. Those will cover a lot and introduce you to the JS Link concept if you need to dig deeper for more complex solutions.

Good luck!

References

PowerApps – No Items to Show

In a previous JS Link / CSR post we covered how to handle what is displayed in a web part when there are no items to show. SharePoint’s default message is an ambiguous:
“There are no items to show in this view of the [listname] list”

Not an awesome user experience. Something a little more contextually relevant might be more helpful to users – either in a simple list view, or in a more complicated solution.

A PowerApps Gallery control isn’t any better – merely showing a blank record. The Data Table control, on the other hand, has a handy ‘NoDataText’ property that can be configured to display a message when the control is empty. 

So, what do we do when using Gallery controls – until a ‘NoDataText’ property is added and/or the Data Table control allows for more configuration options? As is the answer with many things in PowerApps: We use a formula.

Using an appropriate text field control within a Gallery control, we can replace the Text property with a formula like the following:

If(CountRows([_List Name_])=0,”[_Put your message here_]”, ThisItem.Title)

For a SharePoint list named: DefaultList you get the following:

If(CountRows(DefaultList)=0,”Nothing to see here”, ThisItem.Title)

The ‘CountRows’ function as you might guess returns the number of rows in the list.

The ‘If’ function tells the control to set the displayed value of the control to “Nothing to see here” if the condition (there are 0 rows) evaluates to ‘true’. If not, the value of the control is ThisItem.Title – the normal field value we would expect in the control. The text is only displayed when there are no items in the list. 

That’s it. Smile 

References

JS Link – Creating Custom Links

I’ve spoken about this topic so many times I keep forgetting that I haven’t put together a decent post on the subject even though I’ve had sample code posted for quite some time (see References below). Smile with tongue out In my opinion, after conditional formatting this is a sweet spot for JS Link use cases and functionally WAY more useful.

Disclaimer: For those of you using SharePoint 2013, this is still relevant content. If you are using SharePoint 2016 or O365 and have PowerApps available and/or are only using ‘modern’ pages and views there are other potential solutions for you.

Business-wise, what makes custom links useful is the ability for users to build solutions – ‘stitching’ together SharePoint functionality into productive business solutions – beyond what the out of box lists and libraries provide.

What makes custom links with JS Link in SharePoint so useful is the crossing of a few core bits of functionality in SharePoint – that we’ll cover in more detail in this article:

  • Most everything in SharePoint is available via a URL – so we can ‘decode’ the links SharePoint uses to build our own links to the data we want our users to get to
  • ‘Source’ data passed through the querystring allows us to control where the user is taken after a form is used (assuming the link destination was a form – it doesn’t have to be)
  • Creating a HTML link tag is super easy

User Experience Tweaking

You can use CSR to build ‘web-user-friendly’ vs. ‘SharePoint-user-friendly’ user interfaces. If all your users are familiar with SharePoint this isn’t a compelling reason. However, for environments where non-office workers (warehouse, production, etc.) are using SharePoint sites and solutions, making the interface intuitive – making it more ‘web-friendly’ – is a compelling reason to look at enhancements like this. For example:

Non-SharePoint users don’t know what the ellipses (…) are. They don’t know they need to click on the ‘…’ to get a menu for more details, etc.
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By adding a column with web links to forms, it makes the interface easier to navigate – the useful links are displayed prominently instead of inside of a menu that needs to be opened first. If you had custom forms this same approach could be used to get the user to those forms instead of the default forms. SharePoint only enables linking to the default forms in the interface.
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This also gives the solution owner more control over the interface by only displaying the controls they want made available to users.

How-To

If you use the SharePoint menu to navigate to the Edit page and look at the URL you will see something like this:

https://forgegroup.sharepoint.com/TeamSite/CSR/Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx?ID=1&Source=https%3A%2F%2Fforgegroup%2Esharepoint%2Ecom%2FTeamsite%2FCSR%2FSitePages%2FDemo%2520-%2520Link%2520to%2520Pages%2520and%2520Forms%2Easpx&ContentTypeId=0x01004578E7B0B3F1BE41A0EE6CF023F4518D

If we break the URL down we get the following:

  • https://forgegroup.sharepoint.com/TeamSite/CSR/Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx
    This is the URL for the form page
  • ?ID=1
    This is the parameter passed in that tells the form which item ID in the list to display
  • &Source=https%3A%2F%2Fforgegroup%2Esharepoint%2Ecom%2FTeamsite%2FCSR%2FSitePages%2FDemo%2520-%2520Link%2520to%2520Pages%2520and%2520Forms%2Easpx
    This tells SharePoint where to navigate when the form is submitted or cancelled – essentially where the user ends up next. This can be VERY useful when building your own solution.
  • &ContentTypeId=0x01004578E7B0B3F1BE41A0EE6CF023F4518D
    Finally, this is the content type for the item in the list. We aren’t using this information for our example.

What we’re doing with the CSR code is creating our own link that will be displayed in an overridden column. The complete sample code can be found in the CSR_CustomLinks.js file. We’ll just look at the key lines here:

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  • The link is going to ‘../Lists/DemoList/EditForm.aspx’ where ‘DemoList’ is the name of my list and ‘EditForm.aspx’ is the default edit form created for the list. If you’ve created a new form (with SharePoint Designer, etc.) and want to use it, this is where you’d put the name of the file. You could even leave the default ‘edit’ form as default but use this link to get to a separate edit form.
  • ‘ID’ is the name of the parameter we’re sending to the form. We’re getting the data from the list as ctx.CurrentItem.ID
  • Then comes our own ‘Source’ value to tell SharePoint where to navigate after the form has been used. This can be helpful if you want to direct users to a specific place other than where they came from.
  • Finally, ‘Edit’ is the text that will displayed as the link. You can use whatever verbiage makes sense to your users here OR replace the text with a graphic or icon.

In the sample code I’m actually building two links – ‘Edit’ and ‘Details’ in the same column override.

Get creative with this. The link doesn’t have to be to a form for the current list. It could be a view for another list with a reference back to the current list. For example you might have a document library where you’re keeping reference documents for a list and use a reference ID field in the document library to connect back to the current list. You could use this CSR approach to build the URL string to a view of the document library and filter it by the reference ID… Then a user could be looking at the current list and click on a simple link to all the related documents for that item.

Notes

  • Using graphics: Choose a location for any graphics you want to use as part of your solution. A good place might be the SiteAssets library. Then use code that looks something like this:
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    Replacing the ‘Edit’ text with an HTML image tag linking to your image file.
  • Combine this link with conditional formatting and potentially display different actions or icons depending on the content of your list item.
  • Filtering on a lookup column is another post using a similar custom link approach.
  • PowerApps: Moving forward solutions like described in this post will be accomplished using PowerApps. If you’re already using SharePoint Online, the capabilities are already available by building not only a list view from a SharePoint list, but being able to customize each column and build custom forms that you can link to within your PowerApp.

References

SharePoint, PowerApps, and List View Permissions

While discussing SharePoint list views during a recent SharePoint 101 session at our local SharePoint User group, the inevitable question about permissions on columns and views came up. Standard answer: ‘No’. Permissions in SharePoint are set at the list level, or the item level. Nothing is available at the column or view level. However

Here are the facts (today – this stuff changes so fast…):

  • Permissions on SharePoint lists are set at the list or item level. There are no SharePoint settings for permissions on a specific view.
  • PowerApps are surfaced in the views dropdown.
  • PowerApps permissions are set at the App level.

Are you there yet? Did you make the connection? Yep. You can have an item in the view dropdown with permissions different than the list itself. You can now have a ‘view’ with its own permissions. PowerApps are even integrated enough to *not* show up in the dropdown if you are a user that doesn’t have permissions to the App.

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Now, PowerApps are not as simple to create as a SharePoint view, but it is possible. Currently two facts hamper users a little bit here.

  1. The current SharePoint to PowerApps ‘wizard’ only creates a phone layout App. Not something that easily replicates a traditional SharePoint view.
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    Don’t get me wrong, this template (wizard) is awesome. it just doesn’t do what we’re talking about (replicate a list view) in this scenario.
  2. PowerApps are not yet embedded in the SharePoint interface – so the user experience is not as smooth as we’d like it to be.

I have to believe that both of these issues are on the roadmap for the PowerApps and SharePoint teams. We’ll just need to wait and see if and when they work their way up the list. Smile

Until these are addressed, you have a few things you can do manually with SharePoint and PowerApps. I’m walking through some of the options and steps with this blog series (References listed below – still have more posts to come…).

As with anything you’re working on in SharePoint or PowerApps, you need to pay attention to permissions levels. Extending SharePoint with PowerApps – while awesome – adds to the details you need to pay attention to. #governance. You might run into something like this:
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You can also use the ever popular ‘security by obscurity’ approach and remove the PowerApps listing from SharePoint:
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Although, you don’t actually have to do the ‘obscurity’ approach though since we have the capability of setting appropriate permissions at both the SharePoint and PowerApps levels.

You have options to switch the visibility, permissions, and integration experience in the SharePoint list menu:
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These are a few of the configuration options. Check them out to see if the integration between SharePoint and PowerApps can meet your particular needs. If it doesn’t now, by bet would be that it will eventually… soon even.

References

Top X Things Needed To Make PowerApps Awesome for SharePoint

While chatting about PowerApps recently, someone told me that I should always know my ‘top x’ things I want fixed, added, changed, etc. I can see where that might be handy to talk about with Microsoft, with other implementers, etc. It’s a quickly changing community and product and hey, they *are* listening. For PowerApps my current focus is on how it integrates with SharePoint. With that in mind, here’s my top 2. I’ll come up with more later. These are the ones I think are *really* important. 

  1. Embedded
  2. Embedded

PowerApps has great potential and already has a running start. But it has to nail the embedded story. If the integration of SharePoint and PowerApps is going to be *really* successful and gain the love of SharePoint users it needs to be easy and seamless. That means when a user selects a PowerApp in SharePoint it’s not going to jump to another application. It needs to run within the SharePoint interface.

So why do I list ‘embedded’ twice? Not because I really, really want it (I do) – but because there are (at least) two distinct embedded use cases:

Embedded Forms

EVERYONE has been talking about forms – which is well and good. They should be talking. They should (and have) been yelling. The gap is obvious and a solution is WAY overdue. With the scheduled end of InfoPath and the rudely unscheduled end of SharePoint Designer’s (SPD) visual designer, users have been left with one of the community’s longest and most obvious gaps. Thanks to third-party offerings (K2, Nintex, etc.) and community-efforts (Stratus Forms, etc.) certain needs have been met, but there are still gaps and it’s been far too long for a Microsoft-sponsored solution for business and power users.

Note: I don’t want this coming off as an anti-Microsoft rant. That is definitely not my intent. There were plenty of reasons for the delay. What they want to do and need to do is not trivial and the standards are extremely high. The integration we’re talking about also requires collaboration (see what I did there?) between two separate, complex, and rapidly changing products and teams. The PowerApps and SharePoint teams are also in different reporting structures within Microsoft. Fortunately both teams understand how important it is to get this particular integration done. The good thing is that there are many indications that this time around they’re going to make it – and maybe even exceed your expectations.

PowerApps needs to be able to replace existing SharePoint forms – the standard New, Edit, and Display forms – as well as add additional forms to a list or library. Form editing needs to be easy and intuitive in terms of which fields are displayed, how fields are laid out and formatted. Beyond that, there are plenty of other features we’d love to see, but the ones listed here are the core. Talk to anyone that’s used InfoPath or SPD and you’ll quickly get a list of wanted features.

We have every indication that Forms and the embedded experience will be addressed. Microsoft has gone as far as announcing that PowerApps IS the replacement for InfoPath. It is important to remember however that the features are coming iteratively, little by little, but continuously. So be patient.

Embedded Views

The embedded story that folks aren’t talking about as much is for Views. SharePoint views have historically been a powerful tool for business users. And while they are powerful out of the box, power users continue to find that they’d like to extend views beyond the out of box capabilities, and extend without involving developers when they are able.

Again, power users were once able to do some limited, yet still extremely useful, view customizations with SPD, but lost that power with the deprecation of the designer view. For the last few years, some customizations were again available using Client-Side Rendering (CSR) and the JS Link property of web parts. While extremely flexible, this approach was beyond most typical business users as it crept into a grey area between out of the box and ‘real’ customization and development. The approach never gained mainstream support or adoption. Now, as O365 continues to mature and lock down features that have the capability to jeopardize platform stability, CSR and JS Link are also going away from fringe power users and exclusively back into the hands of developers (good for the platform, unfortunate for those that were using it). 

Users need a way to get the benefit of SharePoint views, specifically choosing a list of fields, the order of the fields in a grid or spreadsheet format, the filter for the list of items, and how they are sorted. Once those core features are available they’re going to want the ability to customize that view using PowerApps’ ability to change field formats, apply conditional formatting, and other rules.

PowerApps today are surfaced in O365 SharePoint Online via the view dropdown.

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Selecting one of them initiates the loading of a PowerApp, but only give the user a button to open the PowerApp – opening the client application.

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Embedding the PowerApp would (hopefully) spin up a PowerApp right in the SharePoint window – just like any other view – rather than having to launch a client application – which is a fairly jarring experience for users.

I think there’s some interest in this use-case in the community, but it’s definitely less discussed than the forms example. I’m not sure what the interest level is, but I imagine anyone that was doing CSR and JS Link work would be interested in it. We’ll just have to wait and see.

#3 – A View Template

OK. So I did think of a third item on my list.

The current SharePoint template for PowerApps starts with a SharePoint list and creates a series of three forms in PowerApps. It would be great is there was a PowerApps template that took the selection a step further – into the current views for a list (or library) – and had a default layout that looks more like a traditional SharePoint view – a table/grid layout. This feature alone would allow SharePoint users to leverage their existing investment in views straight into extending them in the PowerApps interface. 

Summary

PowerApps is a powerful addition to the suite of tools Microsoft is making available for power users – many of which are currently using SharePoint. The PowerApps team wants to see user adoption grow and has a large group of potential users in the existing SharePoint user base – and SharePoint folks are an eager bunch. We’re already intrigued by the potential PowerApps brings to the table. If Microsoft is able to smoothly embed PowerApps into SharePoint (and Teams!) pages, users will be chomping at the bit to use PowerApps (and Flow) even faster than they already are.